|Originally published: September 22, 2020|
Updated: December 4, 2020
If you have seen the film The Karate Kid (1984), you know “Wax on, wax off” refers to the countless hours Daniel spent waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car in exasperation, wondering when his karate training would begin. What Daniel didn’t know, was that the arm motion specified by Mr. Miyagi for rubbing wax onto the hood of his car was the exact same gesture used to block a strike from a karate opponent. By waxing the car for hours on end, Daniel was training a very specific karate move into his body.
Vocal exercises are exactly like the waxing Daniel had to do: they are a way to isolate a specific vocal gesture, and create a pathway for that gesture to become second nature. A karate match is an improvised string of dozens of karate moves used with split-second timing, just like singing a song is a series of vocal gestures including shaping the mouth for different vowels and consonants, minuscule adjustments in the larynx to create each different pitch and not to mention the coordination of air flow that must constantly adapt to support pitch, register and volume.
Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid was extremely specific on how the wax was to be applied, which ensured the training exercise matched a karate move needed for a match. Similarly, you’ll only harness the power of a vocal exercise if it helps you achieve a vocal gesture that helps your singing. Are you trying to increase resonance? Improve pitch accuracy? Reduce tongue tension? Connect your sound to your breath? All of these skills help you to free your voice for expressive singing. If you know which vocal gesture you are trying to train, your exercises will eventually provide you with the moves you’ll instinctively draw upon in your songs.
For an example of a helpful vocal training exercise, upgrade to premium and take Mark Baxter’s lesson, Vocal Slide Exercise.
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